One of my top priorities is to ensure my clients have optimal function of their digestive processes, “All disease begins in the gut” ~ Hippocrates
And, an advantage of being a Functional Nutritionist, is having access to diagnostic testing. This is something that has brought my practice to a whole new level. I will write about that in another post. But one of the tools I use in my practice is assessing the health of the microbiome using the GI Map. The results from this test can help discover several types of dysbiosis, low enzyme output, overgrowth of certain species, pathogens, parasites, inflammation, and more. Another benefit of doing a GI Map is assessing the beneficial bacteria. Studies have shown that when commensal species are low we are more susceptible to health issues. One of these keystone species is Akkermansia Muciniphila.
This keystone species has had several studies tied to it, in relation to being protective against Type II Diabetes, as well as severe digestive issues such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. One of the issues I run into often with my clients is this species not showing up at all in a person’s stool analysis, or often very low. This is a concern. The following information explains:
What Akkermansia Muciniphila is
How this species is so impactful to our overall health
And what we can do to help it proliferate
What is Akkermansia Muciniphila?
A commensal gram negative bacteria that strictly survives in an anaerobic environment (no oxygen)
It is non-motile, non-spore forming, oval shaped and makes up 1-4% of our microbiome
How is Akkermansia Muciniphila so impactful to our health?
This bacteria nourishes itself from carbon and nitrogen, which is found in the mucosal layer of our gut lining; this is why it is called “Muciniphila” = “mucous loving.” A. muciniphila actually feeds on mucin, a glycoprotein that regulates the thickness of our gut’s intestinal mucosal layer.
When it is present it enhances the gut lining and prevents the breakdown. Which means that it provides protection from leaky gut. An intact gut lining is essential to a healthy immune system and supports our metabolic health. Intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” is the root cause of so many diseases. Having a leaky gut causes the immune system to become hypersensitive and constantly react to foreigners invaders (antigens from food and bacteria) that enter the bloodstream.
Research has connected levels of A. Muciniphila to many functions in the body as well as metabolic dysfunction and health issues:
Gut imbalances are involved in the development of almost every chronic disease, but people who have IBD and IBS have some of the worst imbalances in their gut microbiome. Low levels of these keystone species have been associated with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
It has been linked to the reversal of liver dysfunction
Metabolic syndrome is classified as a cluster of symptoms (insulin resistance, obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension) that can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. There have been many studies tied to all of these metabolic health markers.
One study found that obese adults who had higher Akkermansia levels had healthier metabolic status and better clinical outcomes (fasting blood sugar, body fat distribution, and insulin sensitivity)
A study found that type 2 diabetics who had a hard time keeping their HbA1c under control despite being on diabetes medications had significantly less Akkermansia than diabetics who responded well to medications
It has been shown to reverse atherosclerosis, by improving metabolic endotoxemia-induced inflammation through restoration of the gut barrier.
Increasing Akkermansia has also demonstrated effectiveness at lowering blood lipid levels, weight loss, adipose tissue inflammation, and insulin resistance in mice
Mouse studies report a negative relationship between Akkermansia and amyloid-beta plaques, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Similar to obesity and type 2 diabetes, Akkermansia levels are also low in Alzheimer’s disease—coincidence? I don’t think so! These metabolic disorders often go hand-in-hand and share many similarities (insulin resistance, inflammation, gut dysbiosis)
I would imagine you are getting the picture!
And can see how important Akkermansia Muciniphila is to so many aspects of our health. So, how do we keep our levels up? And, how do we encourage the growth of this beneficial bacteria?
Here are four tips to incorporate to support the health of this commensal bacteria.
Akkermansia loves ellagic acid, which is a polyphenol prevalent in berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries), grapes, cranberries, pomegranate and nuts such as pecans and walnuts.
Akkermansia also loves catechins and tannins which can be found in green tea.
Alcohol can deplete the abundance of Akkermansia, so if you are working on increasing your numbers, it is best to reduce your alcohol intake.
Prebiotics can also support the proliferation of A. muciniphila indirectly. This is because prebiotics contain fiber, and the bacteria that ferment fiber, like Bifidobacterium, help to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s). The SCFA’s produced (acetate, propionate, and butyrate) are all important metabolites for maintaining a healthy mucosal layer, and are an important fuel for the intestinal epithelial cells, which will strengthen the gut barrier (remember low levels of A. muciniphila are associated with leaky gut). So make sure to include prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, green banana, leeks, asparagus, apples, for more ideas click here. Absorption of these SCFA’s can also be facilitated by MCT’s, which I have been putting in my coffee everyday and have been for 5 years! Similarly, people who have IBD, IBS and UC are more likely to have low levels of SCFA’s. This indirect relationship of keeping other commensal bacteria thriving is known as cross feeding, and helps maintain a healthy microbial balance.
It is clear that Akkermansia is an important member of our gut microbiome and when it is present it supports our gut barrier. This strong intestinal barrier is critical and is linked to chronic disease prevention and optimal health and longevity. If you see it low or below detectable levels in a stool test, do your best to incorporate the strategies listed above to help increase its proliferation.